hub88 Announces September Drone TechTalk Panel

Research, Innovation and Regulation in the Drone Sector – Opportunities and Challenges in Illinois – Event is September 9, 2020 at 5PM.

Our expert panel will discuss drone industry developments and hub88’s Drone Interest Group.

Moderator:  Tom S. Lee, Chair, Hub 88 Drone Interest Group (DIG) 


  • Alpita Shah, Partner, Aviation Law Practice Group, Chico & Nunes
  • Sharon Rossmark, CEO, Women & Drones
  • Jacob Reed, Assistant Professor, Lewis University
  • Geoff Graves, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Valqari, an Illinois-based drone delivery company
  • Ernest Huffman, Aviation Planning and Education Program Manager, North Central Texas Council of Governments

Here is more detail on the panelists’ backgrounds and drone interests…

Alpita Shah, Aviation Practice Group Partner, Chico & Nunes

Alpita is a partner in the Aviation practice group at Chicago minority-owned law firm of Chico & Nunes where her clients include construction, real-estate companies and utility companies utilizing commercial drones.

Ms. Shah also has held senior executive positions within government and led teams on high-profile matters in various sectors such aviation, finance and global health.  Most recently, she worked in the Aviation, Environment, Regulatory and Contracts law division for the City of Chicago, where she advised the Mayor’s office and negotiated critical agreements for the City, including a new use and lease agreement with airlines operating at O’Hare International Airport.

Her interest in drones was sparked in 2015 when her office prepared the first, and somewhat controversial, City ordinance on small unmanned aircraft.  

Prior to her tenure at the City, Ms. Shah served as special advisor to the CEO of World Business Chicago and also spent a decade in Washington D.C. as a lawyer and policy advisor for Presidential-appointed officials in the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the World Bank. 

Currently, Alpita serves on the Advisory Board for an IL -based drone delivery company, Valqari, and is co-chair of the Regulatory and Advocacy subcommittee of Hub 88’s Drone Interest Group (DIG). 

Ms. Shah holds a B.A. in Economics (summa cum laude), from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a J.D. from Yale Law School.  

Sharon Rossmark, CEO of Women and Drones

Sharon Rossmark is the CEO of Women and Drones, the premier global platform featuring women who are disrupting, innovating, and shaping the future of the drone industry. She is also a FAA Certified Drone Pilot. The company provides Drone Flight Services specializing in beta testing for new products, water beach erosion inspections and mapping services.  

Sharon is an international speaker, panelist, and moderator. She has taken the stage to share her passion for drones from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC to the World of Drones Congress in Brisbane, Australia.

The organization’s educational theme centers on “learning through the wonders of flying robots.™” The focus is on collaborating with community and educational programs to incorporate drones into STEM programming for youth.  

She is the co-author of several books introducing young children to drones.  The books are available in English and Spanish. Most of the characters in the books are girls which is a purposeful, important part of her commitment to engaging more girls in STEM and aviation.

In 2018, 2019 and 2020 the company was listed as one of the “Top 100 Companies To Watch” in the drone industry. 

Jacob Reed, Assistant Professor, Lewis University

Jacob is a U.S. Coast Guard Veteran serving for 5 years as an Aviation Electrical Technician/Flight Mechanic. While serving in the Coast Guard, he was stationed in New Orleans conducting law enforcement, Homeland Security missions and Search and Rescue in the Gulf of Mexico area.  After his service, he used his Veterans benefits to obtain a Master’s in Unmanned Systems from Embry-Riddle University. 

Currently, he is the U.A.S. Program Director at Lewis University and head of the Lewis University Drone Racing Team.  He was the lead for Lewis’ design and execution of the first acceptance letter delivery via UAS in the United States. His areas of interest with U.A.S. include mapping, 3D modeling, search & rescue, and interoperability with manned-unmanned teaming.  Jacob received his B.S. in Economics from Northern Illinois University in 2005. 

Ernst Huffman

Ernest Huffman was born and raised in Syracuse New York and received his Bachelors in Aeronautical Science from Dowling College and his Master’s in aviation from Florida Institute of Technology. With over 17 years in the industry Mr. Huffman has worked all over the country as an Aviation Consultant. Included in that is his work as an Airline Technical Representative designated with managing the development of the O’Hare Modernization Program on behalf of the airlines previous to moving to the DFW Area.

Ernst’s current role is the Aviation Planning and Education Program Manager for the North Central Texas Council of Governments. There he manages numerous programs including the Aviation Education Initiative, Regional Aviation System plan and the UAS Safety and Integration Task Force.

Geoff Graves, Director of strategic partnerships, Valqari, an Illinois-based drone delivery company

Geoff Graves has wide range of hands-on experience in aviation, logistics, and international development, including being “boots in the rubble” in post-conflict and post-natural crises situations.

He has worked for National and State governments, the UN, NGOs, and the private sector in roles from problem development, “a fixer of failing programs” to monitoring and evaluating. 

Those experiences enable Geoff to offer informed insights and robust advice across the drone ecosystem. His focus is looking ahead to develop markets and partnerships.